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Suspect in custody after social media threats lock down Sacramento-area high schools

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A suspect is in custody after social media threats led to Jesuit High School and Rio Americano High School in Arden Arcade being locked down Tuesday. The campuses were later cleared by deputies, Sacramento sheriff’s officials said.

Deputies and concerned parents swarmed the area just after 1 p.m. and within an hour officials said they were preparing to clear both campuses of students and staff.

No one was hurt, and deputies were telling parents that students would be released from the campuses.

“We do have a juvenile detained and we don’t believe anyone is outstanding at this time”, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Sgt. Tess Deterding said.

Deterding said the suspect believed to have made the social media post was detained on the campus of an Elk Grove school.

Officials at Elk Grove Unified School District issued a statement confirming the suspect was a student there and saying their security staff began investigating after getting word of the social media post.

“The threat was general and vague and distributed to a wide audience,” the district said. “Preliminary information indicated that the student had made the threat toward their previous non-EGUSD school.

“Further information quickly gathered by EGUSD Safety and Security quickly identified the student and their whereabouts within the district, allowing law enforcement to take swift action in locating and detaining the student. Within minutes, the authorities had the student who posted the social media threat in custody.”

The mother of a 14-year-old student at the Elk Grove school told The Bee her daughter witnessed the arrest when three officers walked into the art class she was in and moved directly toward the student behind her.

They asked him to put his hands up, questioned him about whether he had weapons in his backpack and searched him, Fatmata Maju said.

“She told me he seemed confused and kept asking officers what he did,” Maju said, adding that it was her daughter’s second day of high school..

Deterding said authorities “still have to ascertain whether or not this was a credible threat or something he had the ability to carry out.”

“We all know the climate nowadays with the school shootings we’ve had over the years,” she said. “This is something we take very seriously. ... We do not take any chances.”

The suspect is under 18, but Deterding said she did not provide an age.

No other suspects are believed to be outstanding, she said.

The lockdown at Jesuit began before 12:30 p.m. at the all-boys Catholic School along Fair Oaks Boulevard after school officials alerted authorities to a potential threat made on social media, Deterding said.

“It sounds like they believe this is a former student of Jesuit,” Deterding said.

Parents at the schools showed a Bee reporter Snapchat messages that appeared to show threats against Jesuit. One carried the message “I’m shooting up Jesuit,” while a second read, “I’m currently shooting up my school.”

Deputies were clearing both campuses of students and staff and working to make sure the suspect was not on either scene, Deterding said.

“The first priority is to make sure that person is not on either campus,” she said.

An announcement to parents of Jesuit students went out shortly before 1 p.m. saying that the “campus is secure.”

T.A. Nguyen, 16, a junior at Jesuit, said he was in his English class when the lockdown was announced over the intercom.

“We were all kind of shocked,” he said. “So we didn’t really know what to do.”

Students were instructed to go to the corners and stay away from the windows. They remained there for more than an hour, he said.

Marco Mitic, 17, a senior at the school, said students were told the lockdown was not a drill.

“It was really confusing, like the whole situation was really sudden, unexpected,” Mitic said.

Nguyen said the Snapchat posts threatening the school were circulating among students in his class, and one student showed the images to a teacher.

At about 1:20 p.m. officials closed off Jacob Lane, where Jesuit’s main entrance is located, and the gates at Rio Americano were locked, with about a dozen parents waiting outside on American River Drive.

Nearby Del Dayo Elementary had sheltered in place as a precautionary measure, according to San Juan Unified School District.

El Camino High School, about two miles north of Jesuit, also sheltered in place, according to district officials.

All campuses were cleared around 1:45 p.m.

About two dozen parents were gathered outside Jesuit worriedly talking on cell phones just after 1 p.m., and at least 10 sheriff’s vehicles were parked outside. A sheriff’s helicopter also was circling overhead.

The threat comes a week after a doctored screenshot of the Rio Americano website prompted an investigation by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI.

The image circulating on Facebook and Snapchat of what appeared to be a screenshot of Rio Americano High School’s website was titled, “District-wide High School No Black people policy,” with additional racist slurs in the message.

The Bee’s Elaine Chen, Daniel Kim and Jason Shoultz contributed to this report.
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Molly Sullivan covers crime, breaking news and police accountability for The Bee. She grew up in Northern California and is an alumna of Chico State.
Sam Stanton has worked for The Bee since 1991 and has covered a variety of issues, including politics, criminal justice and breaking news.